Over the last few years of training and racing I’ve really learnt what is most important to me and what I want to get from being involved in the sport of triathlon. Sure don’t get me wrong I love PB’s and race wins but it’s not what drives me and at the end of the day I am never defined by any result. What is important to me is enjoying the journey to each start line and continuing to grow and develop as an athlete. I have really learnt to appreciate the awesome friends I have made over the years, the support I have received from people who have been with me from day one, the relationship that continues to develop with my coach and the friendships that grow from each race. I have recently starting to do some coaching which I am really enjoying as I can now give something back to the sport that has given me so much over the years plus it’s pretty cool seeing an athlete you coach achieve their goals.
At the beginning of 2018 I qualified to take my professional licence at Geelong 70.3. Going pro was something I had thought about towards the end of 2017 when I got some results that reflected the fact that I may be able to race with the best in the sport. I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge and I really enjoy doing things that are outside my comfort zone so after one last trip to the Ironman World Championships as an amateur in October 2018 I took up the opportunity to race pro.
The start of 2019 got off to a little bit of a rough start training wise and it ended with me needing a full physical and emotional reset before we could start to build for my first race of 2019. By around mid-February things were back on track and heading in the right direction and the decision was made that Ironman Australia would be my first race of the year.
Port Macquarie Ironman has always been a special race for me. It was my first Ironman finish in 2015 and I also had my first Ironman age group win in 2018 so to be lining up for my first professional race was a pretty cool feeling and I was really excited for race day.
The start of this year saw a lot of change in both mine and Josh’s life including a new job for Josh and a few changes at my work but looking back it was what needed to happen for us both to move forward. The most exciting part for me was Josh closing down his lawn mowing business after being offered a job to work at our local high school as a teacher’s aide and run fitness programs for the kids. This meant that instead of him being out doing physical work all day and trying to train in the evenings he now has a much less physical job and training fits in perfectly both before and after work. This was a massive win for me because literally overnight the decision for him to switch from ultra-running back to triathlon was made and my training buddy was back in fully swing. We have both now learnt that things flow so much better when we are on the same training schedule and for me training with him is an environment that I thrive in so I was stoked to have him by my side for the lead up to Ironman Australia.
The training leading into this race was tracking well and I felt like I was in a great place both physically and emotional in the last few weeks before the race. I was excited for what race day would bring and ready to put my body to the test but also keen to see what lesson would come from being on the start line of my first professional race.
I arrived at Port Macquarie on Friday afternoon just prior to the pro race briefing and quickly checked in, ticked the pro briefing box, had a chat with coach Bev and headed to my hotel to check in.
I woke up Saturday and the weather was pretty crappy so I decided against my usual pre-race swim and set about organising myself for the race. Saturday went by quickly and it wasn’t long before I found myself heading to bed. I usually sleep really well before a race however this time it wasn’t the case. I literally felt like I barely got any sleep but strangely I was calm and relaxed about this. It was almost like my body knew what was to come and was preparing. After what seemed like a forever finally my alarm went off and it was time to head down to transition.
I was most nervous about the start of the race. I think like most people I’m just keen to get past those initial race start nerves and settling into the race.
The Port Macquarie swim course is one of my favourite courses. I love swimming up the river between the boats and getting to cross over the weir twice is also pretty cool. There are so many points and landmarks on the swim course that make it easy for you to determine where you are. Last year I had my best Ironman swim to date here and I was hoping to swim similar if not better. Although I have seen some fairly big improvements in my swimming over the past few years I knew that given I was starting with only seven pro women I would need to set myself up well to execute a good swim otherwise I could be left swimming solo.
It was pretty relaxing pre-swim as the pros had the opportunity to enter the water and warm up for 10 minutes before the race start. I took the time to give myself a good warm up and it was actually really nice being in the water with only a few other people. I took a few moments to take it all in and prepare myself mentally for the day ahead. Surprisingly I felt calm but excited and ready to go.
The gun went off and it was time to put the swim plan into action. It was pretty simple swim with Laura for as long as you can. I knew that Laura had swam about 2 minutes quicker than me the year before and in my mind I wasn’t sure how long I would be able to hold onto her but I had already thought pre-race that all I would do was focus on staying in a rhythm and go with her for as long as I could. As we headed around the first two greens buoys I had got myself into a pretty comfortable rhythm and thought ok let’s just try to hold this. I felt like I was swimming well and the first part of the swim seemed to fly by. As we headed up over the weir for the first time I felt a bit of a jump in my heart rate and as I jumped back into the water it took me a few seconds to settle my breathing back down but I managed to still stay with Laura. We headed around the next two green buoys and back to the weir crossing I could see the stronger age group swimmers coming up behind us as they had only started 4 minutes after us. I knew this could potentially break my rhythm and if I wasn’t careful I would lose Laura. We headed up over the weir for the second time and as I hit the water Laura made a move and went with some of the stronger age group swimmers that went past. Unfortunately in that moment I was trying to settle my heart rate from crossing over the weir for the second time and wasn’t able to move and go with Laura. I settled my heart rate and breathing down and tried to make the gap up but she slowly pulled away. I knew I would most likely be swimming solo back to T2. The current on the way back down the river is usually quiet strong and today was no different. I excited the water in a time of 57 mins 36 seconds which was marginally faster than last year.
One part of racing professional is the fact that you can get to know your competitors a little better and use their strengths and weakness to get the best out of yourself. I was hoping to get out of the water around the same time as one of the other pros Jessica who I know bikes similar to me. I knew that Jess had swam away for me so I tried to make up as much time as possible in T1 as I was hoping we could get onto the bike course together. As I approached my bike I could see Jess was still in transition so I quickly grabbed my bike and headed out. We both mounted together and headed out of town and onto the bike course.
The first part of the Port Macquarie bike course has a few hills so it can take a while for your heart rate to settle and for you to feel like you get into a bit of a flow on the bike. Heading out of town unfortunately I dropped my chain and at this point Jess rode away from me. I quickly stopped and fixed it and pushed to try and catch back up to Jess but didn’t seem to be making any real gains so decided to just settle into my own pace on the bike. The bike course is two loops of 90km and being really familiar with the course makes riding it easy to break down mentally. The first part of the bike seemed to fly by and it wasn’t long before I was headed back towards town. I took a split on Jess at the second turn around and she had 2 minutes 30 seconds on me.
Given we had a fairly strong head wind heading out of town I had held myself back slightly and saved the legs for the ride back into town with the tail wind. I pushed the pace a little and by the time I turned around in town I only had 30 seconds to catch Jess. The plan was to catch her and work together legally on the way out into the head winds. We rode for a while together but at the 120km mark I decided to make a move and ride with some of the stronger age group men who had ridden up to us. At the final turn around point I was feeling great, nutrition was going in well and I still felt like I had plenty left in the tank. I decided to push the pace again a little heading back into town and pretty much rode solo all the way back to T2.
As I headed onto the run Josh told me I had a 7 min lead on Jess. It was nice to know I had some time on Jess as I know she is a proven stronger runner than me and so this gave me hope that I could hold her off longer. The marathon has been my work in progress and I am yet to produce a marathon that I feel reflects anything close to what I can do in training but as we all know race day is very different to a training day. One of my main focuses has been nutrition and simply being able to take on enough/more during the run. Coming off the bike I felt like I had plenty of energy and had rode fairly comfortably so I was confident that I started the run with enough nutrition from the bike. The goal for the first hour of the run was to run at a similar heart rate to the bike which should generally mean that I wasn’t running to hard. I got through the first 60 minutes feeling ok and by 90 minutes had got all my nutrition in and things were feeling good. Even though pace wasn’t the focus for the first part of the run a very realistic goal for me is a sub 3hour 30 marathon so as I went through 1hr 40 minutes at 20km I knew I was on track for this. As I headed onto my third lap I picked up my second bottle of nutrition but as this started to go in my stomach was feeling too great. I keep pushing and trying to hold pace and ignoring my stomach but unfortunately the pace was starting to drop and I couldn’t keep my heart rate up. Around the 25km mark Jess came running past and as she passed she said run with me. We had been having a good battle all day and it was nice to have someone to work with and help get the best out of each other. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to hold pace and stay with her for long. The last 60 minutes or so I just focused on getting from aid station to aid station only managing to take on coke, water and a few glucose tablets. The last 4km were probably the hardest I’ve had in a marathon. What I am most proud of during my marathon was my ability to keep my mind a positive place and be more self-aware of what was happening. Although on paper this marathon is far from my best I feel like I learnt a lot of things that are going to contribute to what will come in the future. Sometimes we need to take a few steps back to learn and move forward.
Port Macquarie Ironman 2019 is a memory that will be with me forever. I’ve learnt to appreciate that there are some things you can only experience once and it’s so important to enjoy those moments. For me experiencing my first professional race and being at the front of the race with some amazing fast women is something I will never forget. From being able to swim with Laura (the 2019 Ironman Australia Female Champion) for part of the swim to battling it out with Jess for 5th and 6th place. I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to experience this and thoroughly enjoyed racing with the professional ladies. The dynamics of the race are so different and it’s pretty cool being able to use each other’s strengths and weakness to get the best out of each other.
I had such an amazing day out on course and thanks to everyone for the support both on course and all around the world. I was stoked to come away with 6th place female pro and also pick up a small amount of prize money albeit not enough to quit my day job though lol! A big congrats to Laura Siddall for her third win. Impressive stuff!
I’m excited to plan the rest of the year but for now it’s time for some rest and recovery.
Congrats to all who raced Ironman Australia and to those of you that qualified for the Ironman World Championships I can’t wait to follow your journey to the big Island.